Bournemouth 1 Norwich City 2

Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth suffered a surprise defeat to the ten men of Norwich City at the Goldsands Stadium yesterday, after which they maintain their position at the top of the Championship only on goal difference over promotion rivals Derby County. Derby’s victory at Portman Road over Ipswich Town, thanks to another strike from top scorer Chris Martin, ensured that County leapfrogged the Tractor Boys into second place in the league, but level on points with the Cherries. It ended the home side’s unbeaten run in the league at (a still impressive) fourteen games.

Norwich rather surprisingly appointed 33-year old Alex Neil as their new manager this week, after the departure of Neil Adams (who resigned on Monday), perhaps as a slight nod to the pleasing progress that the equally youthful Howe has made at Bournemouth this season, taking the plaudits for a wonderful recent league run that has seen the side play with attacking endeavor. Neil has joined the East Anglian club from Scottish Premiership outfit Hamilton, where he performed the dual roles of player and manager. He is expected to relinquish the playing side at Norwich after signing a one-year rolling contract with them, having left Hamilton in a solid position, third in the top league in Scotland, after gaining them promotion the season before. Although many observers suggest that his inexperience of the English leagues, particularly the energy-sapping Championship, counts against him and do not expect the Canaries to push on towards regaining the Premier League status they enjoyed last season, it was an encouraging start to his tenure in charge at Norwich.

The home side looked to be on their way to extending their lead at the top when midfielder Matt Ritchie put them in front in the first-half, but were pegged back before the break when Gary Hooper scored for Norwich. It had seemed that all of the hard work that Neil’s charges had put in to nullify their attack-minded rivals would be undone, when Jonny Howson saw red after a reckless challenge on Yann Kermorgant midway through the second period. That is until striker Cameron Jerome unleashed a wonderful strike that ended up in the top corner of the net and put Norwich in front with ten minutes to play.

The ten men held on for the win that may prove to be a massive boost to their promotion hopes as they attempt to make up lost ground on the teams above them. Norwich had slipped in the league since early season optimism when they seemed to be scoring for fun, and were hugely disappointing in their recent FA Cup defeat at Preston, which seems to have been the catalyst for Adams’ departure from the club.

It was a pleasing start for Neil who, although acknowledging that his first team playing days may be over, has not ruled out playing in the under-21s as an overage player to educate them within a game situation. He wants to play high energy Football and attack the opposition, which may have been what attracted the City hierarchy to bring him to Norwich. Beating Bournemouth gives him early encouragement in that aim on the way to moving the team back up the league, as they now sit just outside the playoff places. 
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